Crowns and bridges
A crown completely covers a tooth above the gum line. This is in contrast to a dental veneer, which only covers a tooth's front surface and needs natural tooth structure to support it. Therefore, if a tooth is missing a significant amount of structure above the gum line, a crown would be the restoration of choice.
Crowns strengthen damaged teeth, allowing them to function normally again. When crafted from today's high-tech porcelains (dental ceramics), crowns are virtually indistinguishable from natural teeth. They can even be designed to improve upon a tooth's original appearance.
There are other materials besides porcelain that we can use to make dental crowns, depending on what qualities are most important. For durability, cast gold can't be beat. However, this is not always the most aesthetic choice — especially towards the front of the mouth. Other possibilities include porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns (PFM), which have a metal interior for strength and a porcelain exterior for a more natural appearance, and all-porcelain crowns with zirconia, representing the strongest ceramic. We would be happy to discuss the pros and cons of these various options with you.
While crowns and bridges can last a lifetime, they do sometimes come loose or fall out. The most important step you can take to ensure the longevity of your crown is to practice good oral hygiene. Keep your gums and teeth healthy by brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing daily. See your dentist or hygienist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings.
To prevent damage to your new crown or bridge, avoid chewing hard foods, ice or other hard objects.
A crown can also be placed on top of an implant to provide a tooth-like shape and structure for normal oral function. Porcelain or ceramic crowns can be matched to the color of your natural teeth. Other materials include gold and metal alloys, acrylic and ceramic. These alloys are generally stronger than porcelain and may be recommended for back teeth. Porcelain fused to metal is often used because it is both a strong material and attractive in its appearance.
A bridge is mounted onto a space where teeth are missing and is attached onto a tooth or implant. These teeth, called abutments, serve as anchors for the bridge. A replacement tooth, called a pontic, is attached to the crowns that cover the abutment. As with crowns, you have a choice of materials for bridges. Your dentist can help you decide which is best for you, based on the location of the missing tooth (or teeth), its function, aesthetic considerations and cost.